After a spell of campaigning as well as watching our Facebook profile continue to grow steadily in relation to the numbers of 'likes' we have been getting from places as diverse as London, Brisbane, Kuala Lumpur, Buenos Aires to name but a few, this week sees my adventures with Autism Works venture into, what is for me, uncharted territory. For the first time in my working life, I am involved in developing a recruitment strategy and in due course will be involved on the other side of the interview table, all of which will be a huge learning curve for me.
Like many adults with Asperger's Syndrome, including those I know personally who read this blog can relate, I have many times experienced the frustration of being unsuccessful at interview after interview to the point where I have felt that the interview panel has prejudged me or that it is just 'impossible' for me to obtain employment through this method. When one sees such outcomes through disappointed or frustrated eyes, so many criticisms of the interview process and organisational practice arise, including face-value judgement and wondering whether or not a particular candidate from within the organisation was 'picked out' beforehand.
Now though, as Operations Manager at Autism Works, one of my main duties is to assist in developing the company's recruitment strategy. So far, it has been apparent to me when working on the recruitment policy just what a novice I am in this area! But this is largely though because I have never been involved on this side of the recruitment process professionally. Though my MA (Hons) in Information Management, which I completed back in 2001, covered recruitment practice, over time much of this been lost because I have never had the opportunity to put it into practice.
What I have got to appreciate already though and will no doubt do when Autism Works eventually shortlists and interviews for its first software testing positions, early in 2011, is just how hard it is on the other side of the table, especially since our task at Autism Works is to develop a recruitment process that goes beyond conventional practices, so that it is both manageable for and supportive towards adults on the autistic spectrum. What we are sure that we can expect is that when we publicise our first software testing positions is that we will most likely be inundated with applications, and we can only initially offer two positions. All week at Autism Works we have had concerns about raising expectations too early as well as how we will handle a possible huge number of disappointments, in terms of what we can offer unsuccessful candidates.
Having been through the disappointments and frustrations on the other side, when attempting to develop a recruitment policy that positively discriminates towards adults on the autistic spectrum, it is so often easy to forget that one can approach it more openly and creatively rather than conventionally. Forming an autism-friendly recruitment policy has involved adding supportive elements, which each time, when added at meetings I have found myself thinking 'why didn't I think of that'.
The biggest challenge of developing a recruitment strategy, especially for people on the autistic spectrum, is that whatever model an organisation implements, it can never be perfect, like whichever model of democracy a government implements, they can never get it quite right. This will be a huge challenge to me in that it will most likely involve having to learn from mistakes, a technique that I have so often struggled to master throughout my working life, but will also present me with an opportunity to see myself and my capabilities through different eyes, going from excessive heartache from unsuccessful job interviews to seeing it from the other side of the table.
Be sure to keep up-to-date Adventures with Autism Works soon for further developments, and remember to keep circulating us through Facebook.